On Friday the 25th of January, 19 intrepid Trailmen from Troop 98 excitedly set out for adventure.
Camping in a state park that none of them had entered before, touring a wilderness cave, and lots of good food were just a few of the things they were looking forward to. The promises of a beautiful weather forecast were also prominent in their thoughts, due to the poor weather that had dampened their campouts this year.
Not long into their drive, the lights on their Troop trailer stopped working. They made a few stops to try to find supplies to make repairs along the way, but couldn’t find what they needed.
Eventually, they caught the attention of a kind Sheriff, who pulled them over. Mr. Sheriff suggested that they turn on the hazard lights, as the blinkers worked, but the running lights did not. The adults had a “why didn’t we think of that?!”moment, switched on the lights, thanked the officer for his kindness and for keeping the roads safe, then set back out.
They arrived at Colorado Bend State Park, found their group site, set up camp, and enjoyed some mighty fine vittles pretty late in the evening, but were in good spirits, despite the lateness of the hour and the interesting trip.
Early the next morning, they woke up and half of their group headed off for the cave. After some rather intensely scheduled campouts and a lot of bad weather of late, some of the dads were looking forward to a little more relaxation that looked to be in the schedule, but things weren’t going to turn out quite as expected.
Shortly after breakfast, it began to rain, which came and went all day long. Lots and lots of rain scattered throughout the day slowly took a toll on some of the group.
Early in the afternoon, the other half of the group set out for their cave tour.
Heather, from Nichols Outdoor Adventures, available at www.CBcaves.com, gave them a grand tour, exceeding their expectations. In the parking lot, she outfitted them with helmets, checked gear and then led them off into the woods. Along the way, she shared some fun facts about the number of karst and cave features known to exist within the State Park and the sad story of how one central Texas rancher wagered everything in hopes of finding gold on his land, only to find himself in so much debt that he had to sell his beautiful land to the state of Texas.
Kyle and I have toured five different caves in the past several years, three of those with the Troop and two with our family, but this one was completely different from the others!
It was smaller, sure, but it was also better in many ways. We discovered that this is classified as a Wilderness Cave, as opposed to a commercial cave, which made all the difference. We didn’t enter the cave upright and with ease. Instead, we had to climb down into a hole, using an old tree, Bert, to get in. Upon entering the cave, many of us larger folk had to crawl a decent bit before being able to stand upright. More than a few of us were envious of Mr. Merchant’s knee pads at this point, even if we had ridiculed him for them just a few minutes prior.
Once inside, the group enjoyed the barrage of interesting facts that Heather provided. This was clearly not her first rodeo, and she knew how to make it interesting not only for teenage boys, but also for their old geezer dads. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.
We met a bat who was in hibernation, and Kyle named him Oscar, in keeping with the Sesame Street theme begun by the tree at the entrance, and because we figured if we woke him, he might be a grouch. Our guide seemed pleased with it and said that this would be his name. Maybe she lets all the groups name Oscar so they feel special, who knows, but my son was pretty excited either way.
Heather showed us a pile of bones that had been discovered in the cave, and helped the young men use the clues provided by the remains to determine what animal they had belonged to in life.
Cave crickets and daddy long legs were observed, along with lots of cool and interesting cave features. Then came one of the best parts. The boys were able to crawl around on their bellies along some tunnels into other parts of the cave. They loved it!
After our cave tour, part of the group made a short drive up “cell phone hill” before returning to camp. The top of this hill is quite the mixed bag. While being possibly one of the most beautiful views in the park, many a person likely ignores the view while talking on their cell phone, as it is the closest place to camp where service is possible.
Dads made phone calls to make sure their ladies hadn’t turned them in as missing persons after not hearing from them for nearly 24 hours, while Trailmen wrestled and goofed off. During this time, we found out that the wife of one of us/mom of one of us had been in a car wreck during our technological blackout. Thankfully, it ended up being very minor.
Then, the beauty of the park was beheld! What a view! You could see the amazing Gorman Falls from this vantage point, which led to discussion about attempting the hike. Sadly, time and weather were both working against us and we didn’t make it out. Between having seen the falls at a distance and the kayaking area of the gorgeous Colorado River, I suspect that we will return during our next program year to see other parts of this wonderful park. I heard lots of comments suggesting that very thing.
Once we finished on the hill, we headed back to camp, where we discovered that a small game of football had spontaneously broken out amongst those who went on the early tour. Several from our group joined in and the battle raged. Sadly, it ended when two young men collided, resulting in the first two broken bones in Troop history. Sadly, this happened to a young man joining us for his very first Nav/Ad Campout.
I’d like to thank the other dad who accompanied me on the drive to return him to his parents, the young man’s dad for meeting us halfway, and the Trailmen who helped pack his gear and rode with us to take him back. I loved how everyone in the Troop rallied around the young man, trying to help and to make him feel better, showing compassion and concern, then prayed for him at various times. Great example of Walking Worthy, gentlemen! I’ve checked in on him a few times this week and understand that he is in good spirits, and can’t wait to get back out there.
Unfortunately, the rain continued to come and go throughout the evening and overnight Saturday, well into the early hours of Sunday morning, when hail also joined the party. Around 3:45 AM, I woke to hear it pouring. I spent some time in prayer, asking for safety and and better weather before feeling the sudden urge to check the time. I reached for my cell phone, discovering it in a puddle inside our tent. I shook off the water, dried it as best I could, then stuck it in my sleeping bag with me. Nearly a week later, it’s still functioning fine, thankfully.
Sunday morning, after a pretty bad weather night, we woke to discover that several tents had given up the fight and taken on water. It was cold, wet and foggy, and I’ll admit that I was dreading dealing with a bunch of dropping wet Troop gear when we arrived home.
Thankfully, not long after, the fog cleared, the sun came out, and it began to warm up. We took down the tents and laid them out to begin drying, hopeful that the sun would take care of our woes. We packed up what was dry, and attitudes seemed to slowly lift with the temperatures.
We then spent about an hour talking through our thorns, roses and buds. Roses are one of God’s most beautiful creations, so we had a few people tell us what their favorite parts of the campout were. With the roses, come the dreaded thorns, so we also shared our least favorite parts. Each plant has new buds with time, so we also talked about a few things we are looking forward to.
It’s always awesome to listen to others share their hearts during this time. It has a way of reshaping your attitude for the better. It’s awesome to hear the young men sharing all of the things they enjoyed, minimizing the thorns and looking hopefully ahead. It really helps to put things in perspective as we wrap up:
Before long, we flipped our gear to let the other side dry, and it was time for Chapel. As always, hearing a message based on God’s Word shared by our Troop Chaplain out in the woods, surrounded by some of the best men I know has a way of humbling me. What an amazing way to spend a Sunday morning!
We then took pictures at a really cool tree that was a neat visual border to our outdoor kitchen area, running between the tamed portion of the land and the wilderness beyond.
By the time we finished all of that, our gear was dry and ready to pack! We finished up and set off for lunch.
A few of us had been on a previous Troop campout at the nearby Inks Lake State Park about fourteen months prior, after which we stopped on the way home at a great burger place in Lampasas, called Storm’s. Our memories of that lunch led us to convince the group that a return trip was in order.
This turned out to be a wise choice. Not just because Elvis once ate there, but also because they have a few parking spots set up for a big vehicle pulling a trailer, lots of outdoor seating, quick service and fantastic food! We enjoyed some great fellowship while putting away some fine hill country burgers, then set out for an uneventful (thankfully) trip home.
Wrap Up - It wasn’t an easy, comfortable campout, but the good ones never are! Character was forged and bonds were strengthened through the difficulties. I won’t rehash those thoughts, as I already shared them extensively in a post earlier this week.
That said, Colorado Bend State Park, Gorman Falls, and Dynamite Cave were absolutely amazing! I’d love to return to camp there again soon, and for another trip through the cave, a hike to the falls, a dip in the river and some kayaking. It’s always good to have fun things to look forward to!
Any Troop that is able to visit Colorado Bend should definitely do so, and I’d highly recommend setting up a cave tour through Nichols Outdoor Adventures at www.CBcaves.com! If you make it that far, you may as well also stop at Storm’s Lampasas - I promise you won’t regret any of those decisions!
(I was not compensated in any way for my positive reviews above. They are my honest personal opinions, free of any influence.)